Risk of Openness Index: When do government responses need to be increased or maintained?

Research note
Saptarshi Majumdar
Laura Hallas
Helen Tatlow
Emily Cameron-Blake
Sam Webster

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have used a wide array of closure and containment policies such as school and workplace closings, travel restrictions, and stay-at-home orders to try to break the chain of infection. They have also rapidly deployed test-trace-isolate procedures to seek to detect and isolate transmission as soon as possible. As the disease has spread around the world, these policies have waxed and waned in many jurisdictions. For example, some have rolled back ‘lockdown’ measures following a reduction in community transmission. Others are seeing a rise and fall of containment measures as small outbreaks occur. And others still are seeing large surges and responding with aggressive containment policies. As governments seek to calibrate policy to risk, how and when do they know it is safe to open up, and when must they instead close down?

The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) provides a cross-national overview of the risk and response of different countries as they tighten and relax physical distancing measures. The Risk of Openness Index is based on the recommendations set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the measures that should be put in place before COVID-19 response policies can be safely relaxed.

The Risk of Openness Index calculates a measure of risk that a country faces from adopting an ‘open’ policy stance (that is: one that does not include policy measures to contain the virus through physical distancing measures). The first version of this work was focussed on the WHO framing of when countries could exit lockdown, but considering that many countries have already started to lift measures, the Risk of Openness Index is an entirely revised version of our previous ‘Lockdown Rollback Checklist’. While the OxCGRT data cannot say precisely the risk faced by each country, it does provide for a rough comparison across nations. Even this “high level” view reveals that many countries are still facing considerable risks as they ease the stringency of policies.

See the official press release.

* N.B. Israel has announced a 3-week national 'lockdown' soon after we completed our analysis for the Risk of Openness, so it would now not be appropriate for the country to be listed among countries with high risk/low level of containment policy.